Kariega flood victims forced to move back to sodden land

Residents of Old Lapland informal settlement protested against returning as they fear the dam wall above them will burst

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Ruben Smith and Natasha Julie were forced by the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality to return to their waterlogged shack at Old Lapland informal settlement on Sunday. Along with other residents affected by flooding on 1 June, they had been accommodated in a student residence in Kariega for the past month. Photos: Thamsanqa Mbovane

  • 225 people, including a newborn baby, had to flee the Old Lapland informal settlement when it was flooded on 1 June.
  • They have been accommodated in a student residence in town, but on Sunday they burnt refuse on the street in protest against being forced to return to the informal settlement.
  • Many of the Old Lapland residents have no home to return to, and fear a dam wall upstream from them will burst.
  • The municipality says it will provide “temporary accommodation” for those whose homes were washed away “when the budget is available and once the procurement process has been concluded”.

Hundreds of residents of Old Lapland informal settlement in Kariega who were temporarily accommodated in a student residence after floods in June, on Sunday burnt tyres in protest against being forced to move back to the settlement.

The 225 people were evacuated from Old Lapland informal settlement when the area was flooded during the storms in early June which killed 10 people. They were accommodated at a student residence on Church Street in the Kariega city centre.

The flood victims said they didn’t want to be moved back as Old Lapland was downstream of a large dam which they feared would burst with the heavy rains.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beegte said the protesters created a barricade on Church street by burning refuse, requiring the Public Order Police unit to respond.

Old Lapland resident Vuyani Mayana said they were evicted from the Church Street residence on Sunday night and taken back to Old Lapland by the municipality, accompanied by a fleet of metro police vehicles.

Mayana, who is father to a one-month-old baby girl who they had to evacuate during the June floods when she was just three-days-old, said they were fearful that the large dam wall just upstream from Old Lapland would burst.

“We pray that it doesn’t rain because the dam with cracked walls is about 300 metres from our shacks,” he said.

He said the dam wall was “a ticking time bomb”.

He said his home, along with others, was washed away in the flood, along with all their belongings. At the moment he is staying with a relative, together with his partner and their baby daughter.

“I only have the clothes on my body and nothing else,” he said, adding that he would rebuild their home as soon as he could get building materials.

The dam wall above Old Lapland informal settlement, which residents fear will burst.

The home of his former neighbours Ruben Smith and Natasha Julie was still waterlogged when they arrived on Sunday night.

“When we arrived here on Sunday night, we walked through water. We got into our shack and all our clothes had been washed away,” said Smith. “We don’t have food, not even the school uniform for our 15-year-old son, as all was swept away.”

Smith said even though it has not rained since the June flood, there was still water in their home.

He said he was also worried about the dam wall. “If that dam bursts, we are all gone.”

David Geduld, who needs crutches to walk, said the dam burst in the 1990s (GroundUp has not verified this) and he was worried it would happen again.

Geduld, who has five children, said all that is left of his home is the corner poles. All his furniture and belongings he could not take away when they evacuated, had been washed away.

Nelson Mandela Bay mayco member for safety and security and acting mayor Stag Mitchell said the Old Lapland flood victims had been evicted on Sunday as they had been staying in the student residence for 30 days.

“We are not the enemies of them. All we did was to apply law enforcement by helping them move out of the temporary accommodation back to where they stayed. They refused, telling us lies about the dam and saying it is not safe to stay near it,” said Mitchell.

But he said the dam wall was “safe and intact”.

“We even have a video clip to show that the dam is safe,” he said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesperson Sithembiso Soyaya said assistance would be given to Old Lapland flood victims whose homes had been washed away “when the budget is available and once the procurement process has been concluded”.

All that was left of David Geduld’s home was the framework for zinc sheeting. Geduld requires crutches to walk and has five children.

TOPICS:  Housing

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